After 16 days of activism

On the 10th of December, International Human Rights Day, we ended this years’ 16 days of activism against the abuse of women and children. At the end of this campaign, I find myself wondering what difference it is making in people’s lives. So I pose the question to you; how has the campaign affected you this year?

Do you have a greater awareness of the prevalence of abuse in our society?

If you are living in an abusive relationship, were you motivated find the inner strength to ask for help?

If you are tempted to abuse those around you, did this campaign inspire you to seek help?

If you are the survivor of abuse, did the campaign pull up emotions and memories that you still need to deal with?

Do you feel drawn into a sense of solidarity with those who are abused?

We can be tempted to think of this as a national campaign, happening out there in ‘the public domain’ and so it is. But it is only effective if it reaches into our private lives. The nature of abuse is that it is intimate and personal. It happens behind closed doors, inside of families, behind the veneer of normality. Although there are some statistical correlations between poverty and education and the prevalence of abuse, the reality is that women and children from every sector of society, at every level of education and in every culture, are abused.

This campaign is about breaking silence on issues that have always been difficult to talk about. It is about raising awareness that women are not subservient to men, that women have equal dignity and an equal right to living an autonomous life. It is about helping people to look at their own demons, to become aware of their impact of their actions on others. By bringing the reality of abuse into the public sphere, we are hopefully seeing changes in a deeply entrenched patriarchal culture, who still sees women and children as being subservient, as possessions, and lesser beings than men. Part of what has become public knowledge over the last 50 years is that abuse has long term implications for the lives of children and women. The damage to the person’s sense of self, and ability to act in the world remains long after the moment of abuse. People’s lives and their families can be negatively shaped by abuse that was perpetrated decades ago.

The 16 days of activism is be a spring board to a greater awareness of the vulnerability of women and children that should permeate our whole year. Most importantly, it should inspire us to look at all other people as being created with equal dignity in the image and likeness of God.

Mrs Frances Correia

Frances Correia has worked as a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition for the last 20 years. She is a lay Catholic, married with children.

f.correia@jesuitinstitute.org.za @francescorrreia
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